A comparison of spinal Iba1 and GFAP expression in rodent models of acute and chronic pain

Brain Res. 2008 Jul 11:1219:116-26. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 May 11.


The treatment of acute and chronic pain is still deficient. The modulation of glial cells may provide novel targets to treat pain. We hypothesize that astrocytes and microglia participate in the initiation and maintenance of both, acute surgical and chronic neuropathic pain. Rats underwent paw incision, L5 nerve exposure or L5 nerve transection surgery. Behavioral mechanical allodynia was assessed using von Frey filaments. Immunohistochemistry was performed using anti-ionized calcium binding adaptor protein, Iba-1 (microglia), and anti-Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein, GFAP (astrocytes) on day 1, 4 and 7 after surgery. Following paw incision and at spinal L5 segment GFAP expression was increased in laminae I-II and Iba1 in deep laminae on day 1, in the entire dorsal horn on day 4 and dissipated on day 7 after paw incision in parallel with the allodynia. L5 nerve transection induced mechanical allodynia from day 1 to 7 which correlated with Iba-1 increases on day 1, 4 (entire dorsal horn) and day 7 after nerve injury (deep laminae of the dorsal horn) at spinal L5 segment. Conversely, GFAP increased at later time points from day 4 (deep laminae) and on day 7 (entire dorsal horn). Our data demonstrates that astrocytes (GFAP expression) play a role in the initiation of acute pain and the maintenance of chronic pain while Iba-1 increases closely correlated with the early phase of neuropathic pain. Iba1 and GFAP increased rostrally, at L3 segment, after paw incision (day 4) and only Iba1 increased following L5 nerve transection (day 7).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Nerves / injuries
  • Time Factors


  • Aif1 protein, rat
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Microfilament Proteins